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Prepare Barbie for battle with 3D-printed armor

Why bother with pink dresses when you can outfit Barbie with a 3D-printed sword and shield? Jim Rodda wants to make this iconic doll ready to rumble with dragons and evil queens.

Designer Jim Rodda wants to make sure Barbie is ready for battle in this 3D printed medieval armor.
Designer Jim Rodda wants to make sure Barbie is ready for battle in this 3D-printed medieval armor. Jim Rodda

Barbie can be anything -- an astronaut, doctor, Air Force pilot, rock star, police officer, computer engineer -- so why not a warrior? That's exactly what 3D designer Jim Rodda, known as Zheng3 in the hobbyist 3D-printing community, envisioned when he started a Kickstarter campaign to create Barbie-compatible 3D-printed medieval armor.

It started because Rodda's 4-year-old niece has a birthday coming up and he wanted to design and print a unique gift for her.

"The original plan was to make My Little Pony-compatible glitter cannons, but the engineering turned out to be beyond what I could handle in a reasonable amount of time," Rodda told Crave. "So I back-burnered that idea, but was still interested in making accessories for toys she already had. I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons since forever, so my design thinking often goes towards fantasy medieval themes. From there it's a short mental hop to armor for Barbie dolls."

According to the Kickstarter page, the funding covers the biodegradable plastic to print the armor and replacement printer parts, as well as "the time needed to design a highly detailed suit of armor, with all the engraving, ensorcelling, and enameling Barbie's parade panoply deserves." While Rodda isn't selling the actual Barbie dolls, his armor designs will fit the standard Barbie Fashionistas Barbie Doll.

"The design is a hodgepodge of German and French armor styles from the 13th through 16th centuries, with artistic compromises made for Barbie's unusual body shape and strange joints," Rodda said. The armor consists of 30 pieces, including the sword and shield. Many of the pieces articulate with 3D-printed chain links, so in total, about 40 pieces of plastic make up an entire suit.

"This armor's plain-Jane in design," Rodda added. "After the Kickstarter is funded I'll be doing a revision that keeps the same basic form but with lots of engraving and enameling. It's got to look lovely, or Barbie wouldn't wear it."

In addition to the Barbie armor, there's also the Athena Makeover Kit which comes with a spear, shield and winged boots.
In addition to the Barbie armor, there's also the Athena Makeover Kit which comes with a spear, shield and winged boots. Jim Rodda

For those excited about the prospect of Barbie fitted with armor, Rodda also suggests that anyone who already has access to a 3D printer download a copy of his Athena Makeover Kit.

With more and more animated female characters bypassing ballgowns for battle gear, the idea of a armor-clad Barbie doll isn't so far fetched.

"Kids should play with Barbie in the way that best helps them explore their imaginations," Rodda said. "For some, that's going to be putting Barbie in a dress, and for others that means dressing her in plate mail."

The Kickstarter project, if fully funded, will be distributing the armor under a Creative Commons License, which was important to Rodda.

"Once the Kickstarter is funded I'll be shipping digital blueprints to all of my backers so that they can print copies at home," Rodda explained. "There's little I can do to prevent the files from being shared once I give them to backers, so I feel it's better to embrace the distribution rather than fight it. As long as people credit me as the original designer, I'm happy. CC licensing is also an implicit stamp of approval telling people, 'Go ahead, change this. Remix it. Explore your creativity. Share it with the world.'"